As the city encroaches more and more on county land through annexations, Laura Nauser said it is important to strike a balance between the desires of those who want to live in the country and the needs of an expanding city.
It is this belief that inspired her campaign slogan: “Balanced growth for Columbia.”
Nauser is competing against Gayle Troutwine and Joseph Vradenburg for the Fifth Ward seat on the Columbia City Council, which will be vacated by incumbent John John after the April 5 election.
Nauser, a 41-year-old mother of two, has worked in the real-estate title industry for 18 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia College and an associate degree in arts from Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, Calif.
She has lived in Columbia for 13 years and in the Fifth Ward for the last nine.
Nauser said that growth is inevitable, and that it is better to have it occur in Columbia than elsewhere.
“It’s a hard issue, because if we don’t grow in the city of Columbia, the areas around us are going to grow, and the cities around us are going to grow,” Nauser said. “Growth will happen in places like Fulton and Boonville, and we will still have to pay for infrastructure, because people will still come to our town to use our resources.”
Nauser said growth on the periphery is better handled by the city. She said the city’s infrastructure is more capable of handling growth than the county’s because the county is not set up to accommodate major road improvements or new fire and police departments.
“I think when you’re looking into growth, it is better under the city’s umbrella, because the city is better able to deal with it,” Nauser said. “So I’m not a proponent to leapfrog out into the county. That doesn’t benefit either party. But, I think that it’s OK if it happens in a reasonable plan.”
Nauser said that everyone has the right to develop land, but that the concerns of all interested parties should be heard and given attention. She is not opposed to Billy Sapp’s proposed development on Route WW, but she is unsure how she feels about Harg residents’ ability to block Sapp through petitions.
“I have not really spoken to anybody from the Harg group, and they followed the essence of the law,” Nauser said. “Now whether or not it’s a good law, this is the first case I’ve seen, so I can’t make a clear opinion of that. It’s the first time in my recollection that it’s been used.”
Since deciding to run, Nauser has been learning more about key issues facing Columbia.
“I’ve been looking at the budget,” she said. “I’ve been trying to follow the annexation issues, and the big thing I’ve been looking at is roads and infrastructure.”
Roads are the biggest issue facing Columbia, Nauser said, because a community needs a good infrastructure to survive and be vibrant.
Officials have said the city needs
$428 million to meet existing and future transportation needs and are reviewing financing options, such as an increased sales tax, an excise tax on developers and a higher property tax.
Nauser said everybody should share in the burden.
“My philosophy is that we all benefit from the roads, so it should be a multi-tiered approach,” she said. “I think there are many roads that need major work, and I think we all benefit from good roads, so something needs to be addressed to spread it out among all of us.”
Nauser said she has not learned enough at this point to suggest a plan for financing road improvements, but she is open to many options.
She said an increased sales tax is one possibility, but the voters would have to decide. An excise tax on developers is also worth exploring, she said, as long as it’s a reasonable fee. She would also approve an excise tax based on the square footage of homes.
“I don’t think a moderately priced home and a higher-income home should be paying the same fees,” she said.
Although Columbia has some tough decisions to make, especially concerning growth and infrastructure, Nauser said she is ready to take on the responsibility as a council member.
“Columbia is a place I call home,” Nauser said. “I really do love and care for this community. Running for City Council is a way to show my concern and care for the city.”
Nauser grew up in Wright City. After graduating from high school, she decided to make a break from her small-town upbringing and moved to the biggest place she could think of — California. That’s where she got her start in the real-estate title industry, got married and had her first child, a daughter.
Ten years later, still a Missourian at heart, she returned.
Nauser has many hobbies, including reading and yardwork, but she spends most of her time caring for her 10-year-old son.
Jeff Floyd, who works with Nauser in the Cub Scouts program, admires her willingness to help out.
“I’ve worked with Laura — essentially with the Cub Scouts, and at the elementary school I’ve seen her around — and she has really just always been very responsible and very willing to step forward,” Floyd said. “She’s just very well-grounded, I would say. Very sensible, and just a very genuine person.”
Karen Brown, her supervisor at Boone Title Co., said Nauser would be a strong council member. “She’s very upbeat, very bright, thinks fast on her feet,” Brown said, “and she’s been a good person to have around here.”